June 24, 2023

Building the Story from the Inside

During this recent conversation with , Founder of , hosts  and  discussed the reasons why revolutionizing people's ability to create strategic narratives is a driver of change. Tune in to listen and comment away!...

During this recent conversation with Jenifer L. Johnson, Founder of StoryMind Inc., hosts Matt Perez and Jose Leal discussed the reasons why revolutionizing people's ability to create strategic narratives is a driver of change. Tune in to listen and comment away!

#storytellingforbusiness #narrative #changemakers #companyculturematters #liveinterview #podcast


Matt Perez (00:07):

Hi, my name is Matt Perez and you're in the rHatchery Live show. What's the podcast? I don't know if it's a show or not, but we're going to be talking to Jennifer Johnson and my partner Jose Leal is, oh, always in the little windows. There you go. <Laugh>. There's my partner, Jose Leal, and there's Jennifer. And this is the conversation. It's not scripted. And we're going to find out who Jennifer is and what she does and, then how it fits with the framing of the non-fiat world and, if there is a framing. So, Jennifer, nice to have you here. So tell us a bit about yourself.

Jenifer Johnson (00:57):

It's very nice to be here I've watched quite a few of your podcast shows and was quite impressed with the array of people that you talked to and the types of conversations. And last week with SDO was quite interesting. All right. My name is Jennifer l Johnson, and I'm a narrative strategist. I'm also a communication activist, and I am a lobbyist as well. And I'm the founder and CEO of Story Mining, Inc. Now, I say CEO because I want to take back that term for women as well because being a female CEO in the world of male CEOs is quite a challenge. So, I like to say that our company, StoryMind Inc. Is a company a team of people, multi-cultural, cross-cultural. What we do is we help organizations companies, businesses, and communities, construct narrative, construct, create, story, narrative and we do this using a method, which is our method called the Storyboard Method. And it's a series of tools, thinking tools that in the laboratories that we offer help people step by step, construct a narrative, a story about a particular theme that they need to transmit to others.

Jenifer Johnson (02:49):

And the reason that we have this company in the first place is because narrative and story shape our world. And that's a powerful thing to think about. Just that narrative and story shape our world shape our minds. Yes. And actions and narratives are often invisible. I would say 99% of the narratives that are in our minds, in our heads, because they don't float around in the ether, that they're in our brains are unconscious. They're, they're invisible. So one of the radical to use them, your name one of them, the radical qualities of our organization and, and, and, and what we do, is that we also help make narratives visible when we teach people how to or co-create with people their narratives, their stories, we're also helping them see that narrative exists and make visible the narratives that are around them or in their heads. And maybe they're inside of the company inside of society, inside of their home, inside of their community. And so that's also a part of it. And I think we're probably going to get into that a little bit later. So

Jose Leal (04:22):

Jennifer, I, I want to, I want to pause you right there, because please do what you've just described for me makes all the sense in the world. I wonder how you got there. So, tell us the story of how narratives became so important to you that, that you created a go, an organization, and a framework for it. How did that come about? What was the impetus for that?

Jenifer Johnson (04:48):

Okay. That's a great question and let me try to give you a really short answer, because it's, you know, a lifelong process, <laugh>. So let's see. Okay. I've always been, I was born in Texas. I now live in Barcelona, that's where I live. And love and work from Barcelona. Born in the United States in Texas. And I've always been very attracted to, to, to discourse, to, to language, to text. And when I wrote my thesis in university analyzing fascist propaganda and applying it to some of the presidential discourses that were being admitted at the time. And just very naturally and organically started analyzing discourse around me. I wasn't using the word narrative then. And at that time HIV and AIDS started becoming a worldwide epidemic. And I moved to Barcelona and I saw, and I've been well, let's say I was sort of born an activist.

Jenifer Johnson (06:04):

Yeah, I think that I think that, and you probably ask if I ask my parents, you know, they will probably say, yeah, “…oh God, you know, when she was two years old, she didn't stop asking questions and why”. So, I became very involved in the HIV aids epidemic as an activist because there were a lot of things that were not helping people and, and, and hundreds of thousands of people were dying. And I saw very quickly that the story that was being told about HIV aids in that time, you know, we're talking like 25, 30 years ago, that time was full of stigma. And it was the wrong story. And it was not going to help people to heal, to live. I was going to cause them more difficulty actually probably and even death. And so, I started to research and write a new story joined an organization that I half built and started to rewrite the story of, HIV first, so in order that people living with it could understand what it was, and also the press could understand differently.

Jenifer Johnson (07:09):

And then the government, because they asked for some of the information that I was developing. And so I saw firsthand how reconstructing a narrative or reconstructing a story could actually save people's lives, how powerful that was. And then I went to work in the United States, again as a lobbyist, and I did the same thing as a lobbyist for health legislation. And again, to help pass a 2 billion legislation package of discretionary funding, George Bush's presidency wasn’t exactly a friend of public healthcare spending. And we constructed as lobbyists constructed narrative, for their frame of thinking in order so to, to, to, to activate their reality and values in order to pass the legislation that we needed to be passed. Again, I saw constructing a narrative with your audience in mind is very powerful. And it makes changes and it's the catalyst of change.

Jenifer Johnson (08:22):

And I think it's the essence of change. So I came back to Barcelona because I really missed Barcelona, really missed Europe after being in Washington. It's a very tough, very wonderful place to work. It's very, very, very hard to work in politics in Washington. It's very demanding. And after these experiences realize that people needed a method I was seeing a method emerge before my very eyes because I'd used it in different environments. And it very much worked to bring forth change. So, we built a method for a couple of years with a little bit of a think tank with a couple of years and tested it, iterated it, and then started teaching this method. That's the method that we use. And I don't really call it storytelling because there's a lot of baggage. Well, there's a lot of baggage in, in Europe. People say, talk about storytelling, and it has different types of meanings. It could just be telling an anecdote. So, I like to use story and narrative because it's about the process of creation. It's about a process of thinking, creation, and, and the key, the key. And then I'll be quiet…

Jose Leal (09:40):

<Laugh> The key. I just want to; I just want to ask a question before you jump to the key. I'm just,

Jenifer Johnson (09:48):

Just one second.

Jose Leal (09:49):

You said, I just want to be clear that, that our audience and I understand what you just said, a story in a narrative, is that what you…

Jenifer Johnson (09:57):

Said, story and narrative.

Jose Leal (09:59):

And thank you…

Jenifer Johnson (10:00):

Thank you. Story and narrative. Okay. Yes. And please yes, I, I must be clear because clarity is my middle name. <Laugh> The key to creating a narrative is creating meaning, shared meaning. Okay? So, so if we're going to define narrative in a clear simple way narrative and story are ideas that are put together into a frame for seeing, for understanding, for building meaning, for shaping meaning with a particular audience, with a particular public, with a particular group of people in mind, right? So, that's the way we define narrative, and creating shared meaning is the essence of intentionally creating meaning, right? And, and, and when your de-construct the narratives that are around you you're seeing that how, what, what the meaning is. And if you decide to change and shift or create or recreate a narrative, then you need to create new meaning. But if you're going to take somebody's story or narrative away, you need to replace it with another one. That's very important. Okay. I said I was going to be quiet.

Jose Leal (11:20):


Matt Perez (11:21):

I got a question for you because the other part, the following is matching what you said or trying to fit what you said into the framing of the non-fiat approach, the radical approach, and all that, which is something at the beginning that did frame when you said narratives are, you know, you can't say they're invisible. And what we claim is that the fiat environment, the environment that we live in is invisible. It's a huge narrative. Everything has to do with that. So that's one aspect of it. The other thing you just mentioned again about the shared meaning at the bottom at the beginning of everything we do is meaning and belonging. Those are those two things. And so shared meaning is very important. Belonging is very important. So, how do we make the fiat environment visible to people? I mean, that I, we used this, this gadget

Jenifer Johnson (12:44):

Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> mm-hmm.

Matt Perez (12:45):

<Affirmative> So, I got my glasses on. We used this gadget to kind of get the idea across that you walk around like this, and then you lift it and it looks different and all that stuff. But, you know, it's fun and the…and the glasses are actually cool and all that stuff, but it doesn't quite do the tricks. So how don't, how, how do you make something that's invisible, visible?

Jenifer Johnson (13:14):

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. it's a great question. And I, and I love your glasses, and I think it's a great metaphor.

Matt Perez (13:21):

You give me, I'll send you a pair.

Jenifer Johnson (13:23):

No, don't say that if you don't mean it, because I do you? No, I love glasses, man. I walk around with those in Barcelona and am the coolest. I can just see. He

Matt Perez (13:32):

Will send you, he will send you a pair.

Jenifer Johnson (13:35):

I'm so excited. Okay, great. All right. So, good question. All right. There's a couple of, there's a couple of ways to approach this. This question is one way of making the narrative visible mm-hmm. <Affirmative> is first of all, talking about narrative and letting people know and helping them see, which is one of the things that I do as an educator, as an activist, and as a professional, is to help people recognize and realize that the, the, the, the way their behavior, the decisions that they make, the way they would see themselves, the way they interact in the environments around them have to do with the stories that are in their heads that circulate in society. But they, they, they are inside of our minds. George Lakoff is one of my dear teachers… he's a cognitive linguist, and he says ideas don't live in the air.

Jenifer Johnson (14:39):

They're not floating in the air. They are neuro circuits inside of your head. And when you understand that you can also address that when you're helping people to understand new ideas. So that's one thing is just becoming conscious by speaking about narrative and just sort of like giving that word in visibility another way, okay. To make the narratives show, the invisibility or make them visible, is to start creating new ones that you want to use to replace or to shed light on the ones that are powerful and invisible. Now, now, that is what I do with people and organizations every day. And sometimes it's for a company, some for a large company. Sometimes it's for a small company, sometimes it's for an NGO, sometimes for a foundation, sometimes it's for a community, and sometimes it's for a group of activists. Okay. Work across the board with lots of different, because they're people, they're people working in teams. They're people that are hungry for new ways of thinking. So, okay, you build a narrative, okay? Let's say you build a narrative about fiat thinking.

Jenifer Johnson (15:57):

When you build that narrative carefully with your audience in mind, the people who you really want to create meaning with, yeah. With your particular audience in mind, because you never build a narrative for everyone. It doesn't exist. The general public doesn't exist. That's something that I think it's, I always am trying to do, to demystify immediately. It's like the general, there's no such thing as the general public. Yeah. So when you create for a specific audience about fiat thinking, you guys, yeah. Then when you do that, if you do it carefully and define with clarity what that means, even maybe the origin of that term, and help them understand and help them see it, that will be immediately juxtaposed with the other invisible narratives. And people will begin to see more clearly through a new lens, let's just take your metaphor yet but through a new lens.

Jenifer Johnson (16:57):

And that new lens is a narrative lens, and that narrative lens allows people then to see more clearly, oh, I never thought about that, or I never even thought about, like, say fiat. I think it's fascinating. And I had to look up all this information about fiat because I was feeling a little bit, I don't know, unintelligent or something because I couldn't quite understand it. And I did a whole bunch of research on it, and I read it, and I'm fascinated by the term, and I'm fascinated about, you know, how, and its evolution with money. And I think that could be a great thing for you guys to include in your narrative to help people understand your notions of, of, of, of, of fiat thinking. So that's, those are two ways, you know, to, to, to make the invisible visible. Creating new narratives is a very powerful way to make the old narratives visible.

Jose Leal (17:56):

Okay. So when you talk about the, the, the swapping lenses, I like to think of that metaphor, less about a new lens and more about an old lens in that the way that we see that story you know, the, the non-fiat, the, the radical story is not one of a new set of ideologies replacing the old set of ideologies that is the fiat, the fiat thinking, but one that is born of us, one that comes from how we feel about each other, how we need one another through our meaning and our belonging. And that to me is a narrative that's a little different. It's a narrative about connecting to who we really are, rather than something that is yet another creation of the story. It's a story in, of itself, itself, is just a story about who we are rather than a story of who we could be assuming some other ideology. Does that make sense to you? Do, do you see where I'm trying to go there?

Jenifer Johnson (19:15):

Yeah, it makes perfect sense. And I think that one of the things you're saying, I think it's interesting what you say is you, if I'm understanding it correctly, is that okay, one of, one of the narratives, because I, I think you guys have different narratives. There's not just one, you know, a monolithic narrative that seems to be coming out of radical and the different things that you do, but different stories, different narratives. Yeah. What am I seeing is that you want to ensure that it's not just reactionary, you know, about, okay, I'm reacting to this system with, you know, putting another system. Yeah, great. But the story that emerges, and I wouldn't shy away from the, the creation of a narrative that is about connection and about, as you say, who we are and, and what we value as human beings and, and, and how to manifest that.

Jenifer Johnson (20:10):

And I wouldn't shy away because all narrative needs to be, and all story needs to be intentionally created. We should never just, I say this in a sort of a utilitarian way. Like we should never just show up and talk. No. I think it's very important that we, that we shape our ideas in a way that, that people can understand them, the people that we need to understand them are very important. Yeah. And so one of the things that we do as, as human beings, as communicators, is very often we communicate to people as if we were communicating to ourselves. I do it, it's very common. Yeah. Yeah. When you intentionally create something like, let's say one of those stories and narratives that you guys are, are, are, are in very much involved in. Yeah. I mean, you inhabit beautifully.

Jenifer Johnson (21:02):

And also through your actions in that, that consciously creating the words Yeah. And the metaphors to communicate to people about that I think is absolutely necessary and very important in this sort of revolution of meaning. And then another one could be maybe more juxtaposed with the current system if you want to actually talk about fiat thinking because you are drawing from a current system. So, I think that could be a very interesting narrative too, I mean, you, you all have been working on this for a long time, but to keep on working and to keep on refining and to keep on helping people understand because your fiat metaphor is, is very powerful. And the more you help people understand that, and to be able to use it themselves and even know the origin of that, I think is great, important. And it juxtaposes itself very naturally with the current system. And, and, and so I think that's fine too. So I think you guys have several emerging narratives here that are very important.

Jose Leal (22:13):

One of the, does that make sense? It does. It does. And thank you for that because that, that, that adds a lot of clarity for me. One of the ways that I use the language that I often use when, when talking about what you've just described, is framing. That, that we need to frame the conversation. We need to frame the story. We need to frame the way we engage with one another because if we don't, we're not helping ourselves and we're not helping connect the folks that we're, we're trying to connect with or make meaning with.

Matt Perez (22:48):

Another way of saying that is we don't have a, we, we don't have, we often argue about who the audience is. It is not something that we thought about, you know, with clarity. But Go ahead.

Jenifer Johnson (23:08):

No, I mean, me, go ahead. Because that's, that's

Matt Perez (23:11):


Jenifer Johnson (23:13):

No, I'm sorry. Jose, did I cut you off?

Jose Leal (23:16):

No, I, I, yeah, I wanted to finish that thought because Okay. Then framing, the framing idea and, and the storyline idea and the, you know, the narrative. I think they're all, and it's you, I also love the work o of George. And, and, and I think he describes it very well, which is every story we tell is really about touching upon other mental images we already have. It's about connecting, these preexisting things that are in our heads and being able to bring them forward. Not so much about what we are telling people, but about reigniting the things that already preexist in our heads. And thus, the reason knowing who the audience is so critical is that we're not telling our story. We're using words that connect to the story they already have to then build from that.

Jenifer Johnson (24:29):

Yes. Beautifully said, absolutely. Beautifully said. If you decide to leave radically, you can definitely come work on my team, because I think you would be a wonderful facilitator. That was wonderful. Okay, so let me just add to that just to, to, to, to give some more nuance to that. What, let me quote Cicero in English. How do you say? Si? Cicero. Cicero, yeah. Cicero said, “…if you want to persuade me, you must first think my thoughts, fear my feelings, and speak my words”. Beautiful. So that's sort of pre-lake off there. What we want to do is we want to connect with the ideas. Then, if you want to go into the neurocircuitry, the neurocircuitry that is in people's brains, that causes them to have a frame of ideas and then a worldview.

Jenifer Johnson (25:29):

We want to just stop for a moment and look at our audience and ask ourselves some questions about them. Okay? So going back, Matt, to what you were talking about is to your audience, I'll help you guys figure that out. One day you do a little bit of lab with me and we'll look at your audience because that's the first step of what we do and the method that we teach people. The very first step is looking at our audience and doing, an audience map where we ask ourselves questions about this audience. And we ask them, we look at them, we understand what are the resistances, what are there, what are, what are the motivations they have with this theme? What are the problems they see? What are the things they say? And that activates what I like to call radical empathy.

Jenifer Johnson (26:11):

Okay? And it's a very operative type of empathy. All right? So that's very important in order to be able to then connect to the worldview, connect to the fears, the vulnerabilities, the, what they know, what they don't know, there about a certain theme of an audience. Then when you do that and the construction of your story and narrative, because that's our starting point, that's always our starting point. It's the most powerful starting point there is, okay? When you connect in the shaping of your story, when you look at your audience and you understand your audience, you're already starting to shape your narrative and story. Because you already have a lot of great information and you've come out of yourself, you come outside of yourself. I call it the revolution. Like a revolution? No, as an orbit. Okay? So then you start structuring the words and you start structuring your, your, your narrative. And you always have your audience with you. Now you're going to connect with them because you have taken the time to look at what their, look at their…

Matt Perez

Your narrative, and you always have your audience with you. Now you're going to connect with them because you have taken the time to look at what their, look at their map, look at their worldview. Then when you connect with them, as you were saying, Jose, once you connect with them and they feel seen, they feel heard just in your narrative or story, then you can take them someplace else as well. That's the key. You can take them someplace else. You can take them to a new understanding. You take them to new ideas, to build new circuitry, to build new frames. First connecting with them and then taking them someplace else. And that's key. And it works over and over and over, was why it's so powerful. And it's, and it's quite empathetic. I mean, it's this, using this radical empathy in a way to help you construct language and story and narrative.

Jenifer Johnson

It’s really difficult. Really, really difficult to be that empathetic. Which just came out of a meeting where one of the people in the meeting was, was pitching this idea. And it was very, definitely talked about money a lot. And I stayed quiet for a long time because I knew what was going to come out of my mouth was not going to be constructive. Mm-hmm.

Matt Perez


Jenifer Johnson

I thought I knew something about this fellow, but it wasn't helping. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So e even if we identified like the three extremes of the audiences that we want to talk to what you, what you think you're, they're going to ask what you think they're, they feel, or, or the quote about this sort of quote, you just to think my thoughts, those thoughts. We don't know. We have to find somebody from that audience to tell us what is it that they're thinking of. And I'm, I'm thinking back at, at the, at the one $2 trillion you got out the put bush administration for he, for healthcare. That's, that's ridiculous. So, so how, how do you find that out?

Matt Perez

It's not as difficult as you think, first of all. I mean, the, the, the method that we use, and maybe you guys will do a lab one day and you'll see because it's, it's about helping people ask questions. Okay? Asking questions is, is the key, the questions you ask and questions you don't ask. Get us to where we are right now in this world, in this society, in this conversation. So, it's about the questions you ask in the, in the, in the first, in the first tool which I have here for example, is, is we, we do it online as well, but I just happen to have paper copies. This is the audience map. Okay. We know more about our audiences than we know. We know. Okay. And that's because we, we have observed things about our audiences.

Matt Perez

We have, we have taken information in, but we might not recall it because we don't ask ourselves questions. When we stop to ask ourselves a question, we can get you some answers that are pretty interesting and pretty, pretty faithful. Now, if we don't know anything, anything about our audience at all Yeah. Then we might want to do a little bit of research beforehand. Okay, fine. But mostly if somebody, you know, is a male that's 45 years old and he is white and he is American and he this and that, and he has this position as a director, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You can probably know some things about this group of people. Yeah. what could be with their resistance, what could be the motivation for them to listen? What could be the problems they see? We can also do a little bit of research, but a lot of times it's not necessary because we just want to start to put ourselves in their reality.

Matt Perez

Okay. Not exactly, no, because Cicero is not exactly known for every thought. They think no, but to get out of hours and start to think about theirs. And that is something that I do over and over and over with people, well, me and my team as we help them build a story narrative that could be about their, it could be about a service that they have. It could be about a change they're doing in the organization. It could be about a transformation they're doing. It could be about their strategy. It could be about; you can write stories and narratives about anything that's important to create shared meaning. And that's where we always start. Yeah. And it's always the radical point of, okay, now we can start to frame, we can start to use a little bit of language. We know we can address some of the resistances that we have seen that we might have already.

Matt Perez

So, answering your question, Matt, we don't know exactly what they would ask us, but we can start to address that because we've simply taken the time to ask ourselves new questions about them and actually map it out. Yeah. Okay. And you can do this with people whom you feel ideologically aligned with. You can do this with groups of people that you don't feel any ideological alignment with. That's not the question. That's why we had so much success in Washington, I think it’s because we're trying to align ourselves ideologically my team of lobbyists with the current administration's ideology. No. We were looking at it and saying, what, what can we say? What can our argument fit in to help them so they can resonate with this? Then we can take them where we need them to go. And it's not about, it doesn't have anything to do with, I don't know, it doesn't even have anything to do with liking people or inviting them over to dinner. It’s about trying to understand something about that reality so you can communicate better with them according to their reality. Yeah. Make sense?

Jose Leal

Yeah. Yeah. It does. That's, that's a really powerful way, to look at, because I think very often what we try to do is change people, right? The focus is often we say, oh, what we want to do is change them. So, they'll want to do this thing in this way if we could just change them. And, what I'm hearing you say is it's not about changing them. They are who they are. It's about reaching them where they're at.

Matt Perez

Beautifully said. Absolutely. Beautifully said. I'm probably going to quote you one day on that one. I have to say, Jose was really nice.

Jose Leal

It was said, that's

Matt Perez

Jose. Exactly. No, really that that was very nicely said. And if I could just take a moment to say, because you have you all decided to call this building the story from the inside. No. And I think it's beautiful that you all chose that as, as it's one of our, it's one of the things that we say in, in, in my organization. But you chose that and it, it struck a chord with you. Right? Right. Why did that, why does that strike a chord? I'd like to know why does that s sentence or phrase strike a chord with you guys?

Jose Leal

For me, the reason we called it radical was that we think that what's happening is that the world is moving away from the external force as a means of guiding where we go next as a society, as humanity, and moving towards us as the force that is doing the, that moving forward. And to do that is to recognize that the root of all of society is us. And radical means root. And so, the inside is that us. Right? And so, for anything that we think that we're going to be doing as a transformation of the world and movement towards something that is not bound to the inside, then we're just playing the same forward. We're playing the same game forward. How do we bind it to us? To what drives us to the motivation, to the underlying reason for who we are.

Matt Perez

Okay. That was so powerful. And I don't know if you have that written down just like that, but I want you to take this, Filmation you don't say that in English. This…

Jenifer Johnson


Matt Perez

This video. Thank you. I want you to take this video and I want you to take that, those words right after the question I asked you. And I want you to write them down verbatim. Okay. And that needs to be published just like that. It's absolutely beautiful. Very beautiful. Okay. That is a very important piece of narrative. You probably got it written down somewhere before, but if you don't, great. And so, you're answering the question about why you like so much building the story from the inside, Matt and Jose. Like what is it about? I mean, I love the definition you just gave of radical beauty. What about building the story from the inside strikes you? Or you could just continue with that. I'm just very curious and I can tell you what it means in a minute. We have that.

Jenifer Johnson

Ask it, ask it another way. I didn't quite…

Matt Perez

Well like, because it was, you were struck with building the story from the inside because, you know, you had many different phrases that you could use to, to call this, you know, this, this, this program that we're doing today. And you chose to build the story from the inside. And I got a sense that that really struck something with you guys. Well, it really vibrated with you.

Jenifer Johnson

To… in a sense where people, what Jose is that not as beautifully, but you know, I'll read it. They changed this from the change is fundamental is goes back to the root of what you are, the radix of what you are. And our society doesn't want us there.

Matt Perez


Jenifer Johnson

Doesn't all want us there? So, we're curious and playful and, and toss things around and want to throw sometimes tomatoes to the wrong things or whatever. Society doesn't want any of that. They want rules. Okay? And they want boxes. And the smaller boxes, the, the, the better. So, our thing was, you got to throw that out and start from where you're at.

Matt Perez

Okay. Okay. Okay. So, you're seeing the inside as the inside of the person. That's beautiful too because building a story from the inside is great because it's the inside of the person, but it's also the inside of an organization, the inside of a team. Meaning that when you build a story with a, with, when you build a story for an organization or, or, or a group or a team or a company or a community instead, instead of handing it off to an ad agency, which ad agencies do great work, that's, that's not the problem. But instead of handing it off to an ad agency, you start to construct with a team of people from the inside this story. And that makes it so much more powerful. And what it does is it transforms the people and empowers the people who are building it together.

Matt Perez

And if they are directors of a company, there are managers inside of a company, they're activists that are working on a particular issue. It's a neighborhood. They're doing some work on social justice or it's a team of people who are a startup or it's your team of people at radical, right? People start to, first of all, build this, they're building this narrative story. They're guided by the tools, of course. Yeah. They're, they're not in free fall. They're using creativity. They're using some talents they might have that are being unlocked, or maybe they have been silenced for a while or put, are sleeping. They ask questions together of themselves. Yeah. The team, because they go through the tools, they have to ask themselves the questions, and that builds new types of thinking.

Matt Perez

So, people, when they're building a story together, building a narrative together, it's a hugely empowering experience on different levels because they're doing new types of thinking together. They're asking themselves questions together. They're coming to answers together. They're feeling a part of it. Things change that are unseeable from the beginning. You don't really know what's going to happen. Yes, I know my team knows we're going to get to a narrative or story because that's what the method and the tools will help you do. But we don't know what kinds of things will come out and emerge and, and, and be seen and become visible with this team. They build a story, then they're a part of it. They're a part of it. Yeah. And they're not disassociated with it. And they have unlocked and activated new types of thinking and those new types of thinking and those questions that have been asked.

Matt Perez

And that creativity that has been, that has been ignited and used and, and nourished will continue after my team has gone after the narrative or story has been built. And that's also something that I think as an activist I feel very happy about. I like working in, in a corporate environment for that reason as well. Because I'm working with human beings. Yeah. And they're activating new ways of thinking. And when they build a story together, a narrative together about a service, about something, that they're doing in their business about a strategy, sometimes it's the first time they've ever built anything together. That's quite beautiful. That's quite beautiful.

Jose Leal

Absolutely. And, and, and I think the power of the narrative that you're describing when built that way back to Mr. Layoff it doesn't just change the words. It changes how our minds work. Yes. And when it changes it at that root level, again, back to the root, when it changes it at that root level, we are now much more in sync because we share the same story, not just the words and just the ideas of practical, I'm going to do X and you're going to do Y and I'm not sure why you're doing X and I'm not sure why you're doing y but we don't have a foundational story to support the work that we're doing.

Matt Perez

Exactly. Right. That's exactly right. And that's, that's very well-articulated. And I can tell that you have, I can tell this comes from experience as well, because I know you both have an experience in the corporate world. And sometimes when people build a story together in the corporate world, and I will work with big corporations sometimes, or small corporations, I know that the building of that narrative or story is about a service or something. But because something happens in the way you just described it, sometimes it actually saves the, the, the, the organization from going under it actually can save it actually can bring Oh yeah. New strengths. No.

Jenifer Johnson


Matt Perez

Yep. Make sense. But…

Jenifer Johnson

But at the same time, in a big organization, it doesn't have to be big, no. In an organization that's been built from the ground up to be fiat, those people that have never built anything together, now they built their story has a very small chance of changing the organization and repeating this over and over and over and over. So, I mean, we come to the conclusion that larger established organizations are not the place for us to start. And maybe we're full of shut, but,

Matt Perez

But when you say us, who do you mean us to start? What do you mean?

Jenifer Johnson

Jose? Jose and…

Matt Perez

Oh, okay. You guys Okay, I see. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see what you mean.

Jenifer Johnson

So, because of, there's so much pressure coming down on these people to, you know, produce things by a certain date and produce things that make money and produce things that make money and, and, and, and stay in your little box. So, I'll give you, I'll give you an example that, that I've given over and over. And that is, at one point I collaborated… I made the mistake of collaborating with another manager. It was another director. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And I was talking to my boss about something completely different. And he said, oh, you're, you're working, you are working with blah, blah, blah. And he said, yeah, yeah. And in fact, and before I could say anything, he said, don't do that. That's, that's not, see, I mean, I don't care, but other people are not seeing it. Well, it's like you're making them look good.

Jenifer Johnson

And I, I was baffled by it. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, I was totally baffled by it. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, I was totally baffled. I was a lot younger, and I think I had a hair <laugh> and stuff like that. And but I was, how could talk to somebody and collaborating with somebody be seen as bad, but in a place where you have to be settled? And that's one of the pressures that you're getting to be siloed, collaborating with somebody is, is bad news. So, we decided not to go there, but you know, you're welcome to change our mind.

Matt Perez

No, no, that makes, that makes sense for, for you, for your objectives. It makes perfect sense. And that's very painful. It must have been painful for that mat with hair to have, have heard that and felt that. And I can feel that pain of just like, it's so… it's anti-human. It's anti-tribe. It's anti Yes. I can see that. And that's why I do, I do work in corporate environments, and I also work with activists. You know, I have right now somebody from, from one of our facilitators, he's doing some work, bless you with in Mexico Micro labs for future scenarios of social justice. Yeah. And he's using the storyboard method to help a group of citizens build narratives about that. And I was so wonderful. And I work, work, you know, and the next day I work at a, at a company in a corporation, people get out of their silos to build the narrative. They build together, they see each other's creativity. Sometimes they listen to each other maybe for the first time and hear each other activate new tools and something changes for them on the inside. And I don't know what changes for the organization, except they have a great narrative or story, and they have an empowered group of people if something changes for those people individually. And I consider that to be really important.

Jose Leal


Jenifer Johnson

No, I could, I could see why I'm, I'm, you know, I'm attracted to all that. I just want to say one quick thing. One is we're way over time <laugh>, which is great. It doesn't, it doesn't matter. We can keep talking for two hours and cut half. And the other one is sending me your address and I'll send you a…

Jose Leal

<Crosstalk>. Yeah, I was going to say it. You've got one. If you send us your address….We've spoken to her a few months ago and she's a member of the tribe. So absolutely. I personally have one more question, Jennifer, and maybe we could think about wrapping it up, but the work that you do, the thing you've described seems to me that it's what human nature, what, what humanity has been doing since the beginning of time. Yep. And it's talking about what's important to us, building meaning about that, and using that narrative, that story to maintain the glue of the very fabric of our community. Yes. Yes. And I appreciate that you've turned it into a business. I appreciate that you've turned it into something that is approachable by folks today in our world as it is. But is it not already What you are doing is, is a fundamental part of humanity to start with. You've made possible codifying of something that exists in us and should be out there in all organizations, in all forms of collaboration. Yeah. But you're, you're doing it. You're bringing it to light, in the special places that you're working in.

Matt Perez

Yes. And you know, when you talk about that, I'm thinking of like the, you know, cave paintings and which I, you know, I love I don't know how to say this in English [INAUDIBLE] and you know, when people were writing, drawing stories on the side, on rocks or inside of a cave or other surfaces, we lived in such a radically different type of, of society, tribes, a small group of people. And look at our world now, those innate, we are innate lovers of stories. As a matter of fact, neuroscience has helped us see that we have a part of our brain, there's in the left hemisphere that helps us to take information in and actually turn it into a story. And it's called the Interpreter. And we call it the story mind, which is why we call our organization the story mind.

Matt Perez

But that has become so, so diluted and there's so much, so many stimuli, and there's so much information, there's so much noise that now people need a way to be able to do this intentionally, to create shared meaning with a group of people, with intentionality and with, with a process. Because no longer can we go to a side of a rock and start to paint something, and a few of the people that we might live with, a group of 25 people can see it, and we can understand, and we can show them that's not our situation anymore. Yeah. So, it's much more complex. And, and I have a book about this and that. There are some chapters about that, how we got to where we are. But I want to contribute, what,

Jose Leal

What is the book? Show us the book. Do you have the book?

Matt Perez

It's kind of far away.

Jose Leal


Matt Perez

Okay. So, I have it in Chinese and in Spanish, the storyboard method. But I do, there's a lot of theory in here about how we got to this, to the way to where we are. And so, it's not, there's, there's nothing, yes, it's innate, right? Shaping ideas into a story and needing ideas to be shaped into a meaningful story. But, creating them is not innate right now. And it's, and I want to give people that ability right. To do it intentionally.

Jose Leal

Beautiful. I truly enjoyed this conversation. I think it's been very enlightening, and I think very helpful for us. But I think for everyone because, without stories, we can't move forward. And so, Jennifer, thank you so much for taking your time the time you invested, in researching whether this was worth doing, the time that you spent understanding our gibberish, and the time you've taken today to sit with us for as long as you have. So, thank you so much.

Jenifer Johnson

And the time you take to make the invisible visible. Thank you. That's very important. Thank you. Very, very.

Matt Perez

Yeah. Thank you. And thank you all for your mission. This has been a great conversation. It's one of the best conversations I've had in a while, so I really appreciate that, and I appreciate your inquisitive minds. And I'll hope you map your audience if you want. Just… yes.

Jenifer Johnson

Yeah, we are okay.

Matt Perez

We are once. All right. Let's do it.

Jenifer Johnson

All right. Awesome.

Jenifer Johnson

So, I get to announce the next week's guest, his name is Rohit Bagul and he's with CasePoint. There he is. And he's with CasePoint. And the topic is “Shaping the Future through Agile People Operations”. Now that's the name of the topic, and of course, we'll turn into a… how does it map into the non-fiat radical concept. And we've had some experience with Agile. We hope it is different. So, looking forward to it. And thank you very much for everything you've done and what you're going to do for us and stuff like that. And next time I go to Spain, I'll make sure that I stop at this.

Matt Perez

Please do, please do. Thank you, Matt. Thank you.

Jose Leal

Thank you.


Jenifer L Johnson Profile Photo

Jenifer L Johnson


Jenifer L. Johnson is a narrative strategist, communication activist, lobbyist, author and facilitator of narrative labs. The essence of her professional life has been to find solutions through the construction of new narratives.

Jenifer was born in under the big skies of Texas, and currently calls Barcelona her home.

She has spent the last decades working with corporate teams, business leaders, scientists, politicians, educators and activist groups on how to activate their thinking and communication to create clear stories they can use to effectively connect with others and drive collective change.

She is the co-creator of The Storyboard Method® — a path of visual tools used to revolutionize people's ability to create strategic narratives. Her book "Thinking and Communicating with The Storyboard Method" is published in Spanish and Chinese. She is also the founder and director of the company StoryMind Inc.

Her current mission is to help bring new narratives to life. Her mantra is: "Those who shape the stories, shape the future".